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Meet Aastha Arora: India's Billionth Child Born In 2000 Turns 24

Heard of the name Aastha Arora somewhere? Well, she is not an ordinary child in a country with as vast a population as ours as she marked our population with a billionth.

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Pavi Vyas
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BBC

Aastha Arora- India's Billionth Child Born In 2000 (Image Credit: BBC).

A birth that marked a nation's milestone! Aastha Arora who is now 24 years old, is no ordinary child, but the billionth baby in the country's population. Pushing one million births in the country behind her, Arora's birth was a milestone as well as a stark reminder of population rise as India became the second country in the world after China to mark its population in billions.

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Born on May 11, 2000, at 05:05 am in New Delhi's Safdarganj Hospital, Arora's birth marked global headlines as she was announced as the one billionth baby of India. Gaining media attention worldwide, Arora in no time became a significant 'billionth baby' as many significant figures visited her at her house or hospital. However, amid the whirlwind of attention and adulation, the fleeting nature of fame soon became apparent. Despite initial promises of support and recognition, the Arora family found themselves struggling with unmet expectations and faded promises. As the spotlight dimmed and the world moved on, Aastha Arora, once hailed as a symbol of national pride, found herself  steering the challenges of ordinary life, her brief moment of fame slipping away like grains of sand through an hourglass.

Who Is Aastha Arora? India's Billionth Child Born In 2000

Arora's arrival in 2000 was more than just another birth announcement; it launched her into the record books and national headlines when India's population officially surpassed one billion. Her birth had previously been publicised by the doctors; it could have been the billionth birth, but her mother paid little attention, as she only recognised the significance after the birth when high-ranking ministers and bureaucrats made a beeline to attend and photograph their newborn daughter and mother.

Michael Vlassoff, India's ambassador to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), described Arora's birth as "very special" and a "unique baby." However, officials from UNFPA also called her birth a "wake-up call" to rethink measures for the country's burgeoning population as a girl child made India enter the exclusive club of a billion people along with China, making India the second country with the population marking a billion.

The initial media frenzy surrounding this billionth baby was so intense that Arora quickly became India's youngest celebrity; many news outlets even paid visits to her home in southwest Delhi's Najafgarh, and she was invited to inaugurate a website jointly launched by UNFPA and the Indian Health Ministry when she was only a year old. A week later, on her first birthday, her family's visit to Ajmer was also covered in numerous local publications.

However, it was only when Arora was five and some media houses reached her school to interview her that she realised her special status, as she says in a BBC interview "For a child, it was a big thing to appear on TV and I loved the attention." Later, it was her father's scrapbook where she understood the significance of her birth, as her father collected every news clipping about her birth.

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With her father being the breadwinner of a family of four and working as a salesperson in a small local shop, the family barely managed to meet their finances and struggled to pay the school fees of their two kids. Despite the financial crunch, Arora's mother says that after their daughter's birth, every dream seemed achievable. 

The family of the billionth baby claims that ministers, including Sumitra Mahajan, a former speaker of the Indian Parliament and then-minister of women's and child development, promised their daughter "free education, education, and railway passage," and then MP Sahib Singh Verma promised to find a government job for her father. However, the family alleges that these commitments were not kept.

As the financial crunch intensified for the Arora family with growing inflation, despite Aastha's academic brilliance, she had to give up on her dream of becoming a doctor and chose to pursue the nursing course with the only fund that the family received from UNFPA of Rs 200,000, which she could only use for her education when she turned 18, as the amount grew to 7 lakh by the time she came up to the age.

Arora's special newborn status faded over time, and she is now a 24-year-old working nurse. In recent years, she has used her unique position to express her views in public forums on India's expanding population. She speaks about the ongoing population pressures, the need for improved education, and the importance of empowering girls. 

Arora highlights "It's our cultural preference for sons that's got us here." She added, "People keep having daughters until they have a son because they believe that a male child would carry their name forward." She opines that the government must take significant actions to change this mindset in society.


 

India's Billionth Child Aastha Arora
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